Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Bridle for Every Season

I get ridden once—maybe twice—a week. We're working on this. FarmWife and I dream of riding and/or driving six days on and one day off, but it may be some time in coming. Never fear—at 16, I am still young!

Still, I have four bridles and a half-dozen extra bits. In rotation, we have my snaffle bridle, outfitted with a Sealtex-coated, single jointed dee snaffle. FarmWife, who loves new bits and who's noticed how I appreciate a more stable mouthpiece, would like to replace this with a rubber mullen baucher snaffle.

I have a snaffle bridle because I have promised FarmWife that we may take dressage lessons in the future. I didn't do this because I actually want to take dressage lessons, or because we can afford dressage lessons, or because we have a place to practice dressage. No: I did this because FarmWife loves to daydream, and because there's no harm in entertaining her fantasies.

I have a pelham bridle, which I use on the snaffle-rein setting for open-bridle driving training (in action, it is much like a liverpool) and which I will use when I go hilltopping with the Woodland Hunt. I don't have any particular opportunity pending with the Hunt, but I'm sure they would love me. Can one hilltop in a dressage saddle? I'm not sure. FarmWife will need to replace her only pair of breeches, which are brown with a hole on the knee. 
I also use my pelham bridle, with two reins of course, when I go trail riding in big groups. I have the World's Best Walk. Unless I'm out and about with gaited horses, I struggle in a group. My walk is equivalent to a thoroughbred's jig or a quarter-horses lope. I should go first, except that when I'm out in a group I don't want to go first. I want to go side-by-side with horse number two, so that we can meet any potential monsters together. I want to go side-by-side, even on a single-file deer trail through challenging terrain. The pelham keeps me functional, and keeps me where I ought to be per FarmWife's instructions, but I won't deny that I need a lot more practice with group dynamics. I never said I was perfect.

I have a closed driving bridle with blinders and a two-slot, mullen mouth, Sealtex-wrapped liverpool bit. It was a quarter inch too big and had swivel cheeks rather than FarmWife's preferred fixed cheeks, so I wear it with bit guards. It's snazzy, and makes me look like the real deal. The blinders keep me from seeing the tire behind me, which is nice, but FarmWife says I have to try pulling it without them, too, as an educational opportunity. I supposed she wants me to know I'm being followed now, in a controlled setting, rather than to discover it later when my bridle slips at some bustling event—slips to reveal a fire-breathing monster hitched to my traces. 

These driving photos were
taken before I got my liverpool—
I used to drive in a rubber
pelham, which worked too. 
And then there's my bosal, which is a new innovation. My FarmWife got me a bosal after deciding that my responsiveness to lateral aids (turn, steer, sidepass, yield the forehand or the hindquarters) was just about nonexistent. I grew up a trail mule, and trail mule I've remained. My early steering experience was limited to "follow the trail left" or "follow the trail right," and in a wide-open space I can be as wiggly as a fish. The hackamore is helping, and is giving me some understanding that pressure on one side or the other means something. It helps me keep my forwardness, which is important. It's comfy, it fits, and FarmWife uses it with care. I like it just as well as my mechanical hackamore, which I used to wear, and FarmWife likes it better for it's usefullness as a direct-reining tool. 

Between ground driving work on the long lines and trail work in my hackamore, I'm learning a lot about steering. Meanwhile, my übersoft mouth is undisturbed, and I'm free to take a treat from FarmWife now and then as a reward for particularly wonderful work. When I really get it, we'll reward ourselves—with a country drive, or an outing with the Hunt Club, or a schooling show. Until then, I've got a closet full of outfits for those fantasy dates. 



  1. You have quite the wardrobe :)

  2. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the black and white photo, FB... your eyes and expression are gorgeous (you spend much of your time gorgeous, of course, but that is an awesome photo!)!!!!

    Mother (of Bif)

  3. If you mean the Woodbrook Hunt, I believe they allow hilltoppers to attend and view in anything that allows for safe riding. (If you intend to join the hunt following your mount's introduction and good behavior, you would be expected to observe traditional tack and attire - all of which can be collected over time from the abundant resale resources online). West of the Mississippi the hunts are a bit less tradition-bound. For example, the Red Rock Hunt and some of the other SW states' hunts - the vermin of choice is coyote, not fox, not drag (Woodbrook is a drag hunt). For hunt personnel to contact regarding this and to read the protocols applicable see Woodbrook Hunt Club dot com. Or, refer to the Chronicle of the Horse's annual hunt club issue which I believe is available online after the issue comes out every fall. You might want to consider "cubbing" too if Woodbrook still has it, a terrific introduction to the staff, the "installation" and of course the hounds, in a relaxed setting which further allows for additional conditioning including the occasional jump.

  4. I invite you to come to the desert and ride with Dixie and me! Her walk-gait-thing is equal to an Arab or TB's jig and a QH's lope. It would be lovely to motor on down the trail with a like-gaited equine. She loves burros, so I'm sure she would come to love you (a giant burro in her eyes).

  5. Hi Fen, perhaps Farmwife could consider a Dr Cooks Bitless bridle or similar for you? We find them way more comfortable than bits and are so glad our human got them for us. We are as responsive as with a bit, and we are not sensible steady mules like you. One of us is an 8 year old Standardbred & the other is a 10 year old Standardbred/Quarterhorse cross, a big strong boy as determined as any mule. Hope your human gives it a try. And we would love to see pictures of you doing dressage!


Thanks in Advance for Your Mulish Opinion!